As visiting chef at the newly opened Casa Pueblo Tulum, a hacienda-style hotel in Mexico, New York–based chef and Domino contributor Camille Becerra shares her impressions of the coastal Mayan region—and the recipes inspired by her extended stay.
Almost anywhere you travel there are ancient foods—grains, spices, citrus, seeds, herbs. Learning about regional produce in the markets and what varies from place to place adds a ﬂourish to the dishes you create.
I’m reimagining my recipes here with local ingredients rather than making Mexican food speciﬁcally—like using amazing rice, yucca, and oatmeal ﬂours to develop a new version of my gluten-free banana bread. I also discovered the chocolaty indigenous ramón ﬂour that is becoming popular as a superfood. As a chef you want to adapt your cuisine to what’s available and bring back your favorite ﬁnds.
Going to the market is such an educational process—it’s my ﬁrst stop when traveling and where I do my research to understand what people eat and how they cook. Seeing all the beautiful produce and working with those elements to bring in new ﬂavors and colors is inspiring—even the way fruit is displayed in diagonal slices or stacked up like little totems.
My favorite market in the area is run by a Mayan couple who grow all their own organic produce—like beautiful heritage tomatoes and arugula that’s wild tasting, spicy, and delicious.
In New York, I dress in navy and black, but here I’m wearing floral prints. I’m completely drawn to Tulum’s minimal architecture and vibrant buildings—the distinctive azul añil blue is a traditional color of the region. Your environment affects your food, too.
Being surrounded by tropical produce gives me more of a palette to work with, like the purply red sauce for my coconut fish (a mix of roasted beet and tomato). At Casa Pueblo, we keep the dishware neutral and earthy to allow the food to really pop. All the ceramics are made locally, and one studio, Taller Escarabajo, uses clay from the area.
Ceviche With Papaya & Red Onion
I love how the sweetness of the ripe papaya balances the smokiness of the mezcal. The pepitas add crunch and a hit of spice.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Fish Poached in Coconut Milk With Roasted Beet and Tomato Sauce
My current favorite way of cooking fish that requires a gentle process—like red snapper or striped bass—is by poaching it in fresh coconut milk. It comes out really succulent, and the toasted seeds add some nice texture.
Roasted Beet and Tomato Sauce (make ahead)
Jicama & Green Mango Salad With Candied Peanuts
Crunchy jicama and starchy green mango both have flavor profiles that lend really well to salads.
Serves 1 to 2
Hydrating fresh waters are very common in Mexico and now popular in the States. For extra nutritional pep, add a teaspoon or two of chia to your drink after the straining process.
Each yields roughly 6 cups.